Although more is known about the prehistory of the American Southwest than any other area of the United States, relatively little of this information has been passed down to the public in a comprehensive and yet digested form. There are less than half a dozen texts on the subject, and none of these has proven entirely satisfactory.
When McGregor first published his Southwestern Archaeology in 1941, the literature on Southwestern history and prehistory had already become extensive. A. V. Kidder’s justly famous An Introduction to the Study of Southwestern Archaeology (1924) was out of print and out of date, and the need for a new text was sorely felt. McGregor’s work offered a competent summary of the outlines of Southwestern developments, but for the most part it received unfavorable reviews. The major critic, J. O. Brew, pointed out that the text was one sided and more of a treatise on Arizona than the Southwest in general, that it gave inadequate coverage to the Early Man and Historic periods, and that it treated the then little known Mogollon culture as a basic culture, when its status was very much in dispute (American Antiquity, VII, 191-196).
In the twenty-five years that separate the first and second editions of Southwestern Archaeology, archaeological research has proliferated, with the result that Southwestern prehistory is viewed with a competence and sophistication unknown elsewhere. McGregor’s thesis regarding Mogollon is now generally accepted, and many of his other insights have been validated. There have, of course, been other changes—some of a refining nature, others which have enlarged the scope of culture relationships. Among the latter is the realization of the weighty contribution which Mexican civilizations made to the forms of Southwestern agriculture, architecture, ceramics, and religious life.
McGregor’s second edition, even though thoroughly revised, has not kept pace with all of these changes. Indeed, it is an open question as to whether any text ever could. In the new edition separate chapters deal with Southwestern developments by periods, whereas chapters in the first edition covered separate cultures. There are new illustrations, charts, and tables of dated ruins and ceramics, and many of the discussions are completely new, but to a great degree the criticisms leveled at the first edition still apply. This is not a text to satisfy the specialist, for there is too much left unsaid. But for the layman and the beginning student the basic traits and complexes of the various Southwestern cultures are clearly described and traced through space and time, and most of the significant research in the Southwest as of 1960 is supplied in the bibliography.